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WRITER, FATHER REUNITED 'NEW OPENNESS' ALLOWS VISIT FROM SOUTH AFRICA

WRITER, FATHER REUNITED 'NEW OPENNESS' ALLOWS VISIT FROM SOUTH AFRICA

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When South African-born author Mark Mathabane left his native home 12 years ago, he had a strained relationship with his father. He knew he could never return and prayed that he would one day be reunited with his father to reconcile their differences.

His prayers were answered Sunday when his father, Jackson Mathabane, arrived at Piedmont Triad International Airport to see him and his new home. The elder Mathabane had tried to come earlier but had been unable to obtain a visitor's visa to leave South Africa.``Our relationship was very tumultuous when I left South Africa because I was was helping to support our family, and my father could not understand how I could leave,' the younger Mathabane said. ``My heart is swimming in a sea of joy now because I never thought he would come around.'

Mark Mathabane, 30, came to the United States on a tennis scholarship from Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C. He earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Dowling College in Oakdale, N.Y., and attended the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City.

``Kaffir Boy,' his first book, reached No. 3 on The New York Times list of best sellers. His second book, ``Kaffir Boy in America,' reached No. 13 on the list.

The books chronicled his life from childhood in South Africa through his decision to settle in North Carolina.

When he was 5, the younger Mathabane watched as his father was interrogated by police for not having his passbook in order and then sent to prison for two months of hard labor.

In 1987, Oprah Winfrey paid to have Mark Mathabane's mother, Magdaline; his grandmother, Ellen Mabaso; his brother, George; and sisters Florah, Linah and Dinah flown to the United States. Jackson Mathabane was kept in South Africa because he could not get a visitor's visa.

After reading ``Kaffir Boy,' Winfrey arranged for his family to reunite on her television show.

Mark Mathabane said his father was finally allowed to visit because of a change in the government in South Africa.

``It is a sign of the new openness in South Africa,' he said. ``Things are changing and attitudes are transforming at the top levels of government.'

The opportunity to see his son allowed Jackson Mathabane to be at peace with himself, he said.

``A big load has been lifted from my chest because my heart has been aching during the 12 years we were separated,' Jackson Mathabane said.

"I never thought I would see him again, but deep in my heart I believed God would make it possible someday."

Jackson and Magdaline Mathabane will be staying at their son's home in Kernersville for several months, and Mark Mathabane said he plans to spend quality time with both parents.

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